The goal of Free Methodist World Missions in Latin America is to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin Americans for Christ. Many ways exist to approach such an immense challenge, but a clear and consistent sense of direction from the Lord provides focus: We develop leaders and plant churches.
As area director for Latin America, I concentrate my best efforts and continually challenge all teams I lead toward empowering and coaching national leaders. Missionary transitions may occur because of personal calling, family needs and local circumstances. National leaders, however, tend to live in their countries for life. Together, we invest our best in them, equipping them for the present and preparing them for the future.
The coaching and empowering of leaders take a variety of shapes:
- Annual leadership conferences in each country have been well-accepted. These training events are open to all who attend Free Methodist churches and are required for pastors and ministerial candidates to attend. Many lay leaders enthusiastically participate. They often take vacation time from work, pay their expenses and travel long distances to be present. Current and future leaders understand they play a vital part in the development of the church in their own countries and are eager to be trained to do it well.
- Our new pastoral formation system is up and running. This well-received system prepares pastors for effective ministry and ordination. It establishes and trains Ministerial Education and Guidance (MEG) boards in every district while coaching each Ministerial Appointment Committee (MAC) toward health.
- In some countries, the church is highly educated. In some others, it isn’t. The system welcomes people where they are and takes them to the next level in their education and preparation for effective and contextualized ministry.
- Mission district leaders are offered personalized coaching to internalize, contextualize and implement what they have learned at leadership conferences and through participating in and implementing the new pastoral formation system.
- We model decentralization at every level and encourage the use of technology for peer mentoring among leaders in different countries.
There are many ways of catalyzing initiatives and partnerships to plant clusters of churches in strategic cities. Countless church planting techniques have been used. At a recent Latin America Mission District Leaders Summit in Medellín, Colombia, all gladly agreed that Community Church Planting is our official strategy moving forward. Community Church Planting is a biblical, grassroots strategy that embraces, trains and catalyzes church planters at multiple levels of spiritual and leadership development.
This mission and vision have been broadly owned. Leaders of different countries and at different levels of official responsibilities encourage each other, share best practices and openly cheer each other on. Missionaries work together with focus on the mission, vision and values contextualized to the countries they serve. Most Free Methodist missionaries minister in several Latin American countries, and all contribute meaningfully to the goal of fueling and sustaining a biblical movement to reach our continent for Christ.
All of this results in delightful teams throughout the continent serving God together with good ministry traction and fruitfulness. A sense of identity grows as the Free Methodist Church continues to move forward in Latin America across the broad diversity of countries and cultures where we are privileged to serve.
Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.